Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Paul Kelly:CHL teams are paying players under the table

Paul Kelly was briefly in charge of directing NHL players as head of the NHLPA. He's now working for a league, and hoping to keep college hockey players in college instead of the growing trend that has mostly American players bolting their NCAA commitments for the CHL. Kelly is now the Executive Director with College Hockey Inc.

"I didn't expect to be doing this now, I expected to be working the the NHLPA" Kelly told The Pipeline Show Tueday night.
The basic premise of his new job is to promote the college game by getting information about education out to the players and their families. Kelly is also gathering feedback from those closest to the game.
"We're out there in the early stages trying to connect with the coaches. Learn about their suggestions, gripes."
One of the biggest "gripes" that NCAA coaches have right now is players they've spent years recruiting, bolting for the CHL. In recent years John Carlson who was set to play at the University of Massachusetts ended up in London. Cam Fowler was slated to skate with Notre Dame but chose Windsor instead and John Moore picked Kitchener over Colorado College. We asked Kelly if the rumors of CHL teams paying players under the table are true and how much they affect NCAA teams losing players.
"I know that that's happening, it's not supposed to happen but it's happening. Scouts know it's happening, teams know it's happening, players know it's happening, and frankly it's happening primarily with American players. Those elite American players who are being lured to come up over the border, there is certainly benefits being paid which are not being reflected or publicly made available. It's happening, and anybody who doesn't think it's happening has their head in the sand."
Kelly also feels that Canadian hockey players who are hoping to play the NCAA game are being steered towards the CHL.
"The Canadian Hockey League is taking steps to try to block that path. They've done it a number of different ways, primarily by basically shutting down the places those players can play when they're 16 and 17 years of age.

TPS pointed out that there are 11 Junior 'A' leagues across the country that continually feed the NCAA game. A quick check of the AJHL website and we find that 25 current AJHL players are committed to NCAA schools in the coming years and 223 AJHL alumni are playing south of the border this year. In the BCHL there are 48 current players that have committed to NCAA schools.

Kelly believes that Hockey Canada and the CHL have "partnered" with some junior A and B leagues, particularly in Ontario, and are "almost forcing" players to go the CHL route. Kelly feels that a lot of the Canadian Junior A Hockey Leagues are too watered down and young players aren't playing against the best competition.
"It may be, what they ought to think about is putting together a two tiered system where they keep the elite guys together so that they can play at a competitive high level rather then have them step down and risk regressing as far as their hockey development."
I'm still not sure how Hockey Canada and the CHL are playing a part in this?

The former NHLPA boss is also of the opinion that the educational package a player receives by playing in the NCAA trumps the one he might earn in the CHL, despite the fact that every CHL player receives a paid year of schooling for every season he plays.
"If you study the numbers, the guys that are availing themselves to that package are the guys who ultimately don't make it and have to go back to school, and if you study the numbers it's a fairly small number of players who are taking advantage of it. The education package frankly has a bit of holes in it, it isn't an absolute blank cheque; it's not a $50,000 per year scholarship that you would get if you were attending a Michigan or a Notre Dame."
One thing we did agree on is that forcing a kid to make a decision about his hockey future at the age of 14 or 15 is too young. I threw out my solution that a player should have until he's 17 or 18 before he decides on his future, whether it's the CHL or the NCAA.
"I agree with your original proposition, that we're taking kids who don't drive cars, who don't have a real sense of maturity or judgment and we're forcing them to make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. It's too early. Frankly I would like to see all of these drafts be delayed until the kids are 16."
But the NCAA would have to stop looking at the CHL as a "pro league" and instead view it the same as a junior A league, and whether or not Kelly can convince the institution which is college hockey remains to be seen.

You can here more of what Kelly thinks of the CHL, his ways to improve the college game and how feels about the current NHLPA and whether the door is still open for him to return to the NHLPA by clicking here.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Great timing.

My kid is a great player, dedicated to the work. Mediocre student. '94 birth year. California.

That combination says to me "WHL". College hockey is so improbable for any US kid to get into.

WHL sounds great, NCAA...

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Anonymous said...

This is nothing new. Ive known players playing in the WHL for 5+ years now and they all get paid under the table, it might not be "cash" but they get gift certificates and other little things like that.

benchbug said...

Only the top few are getting the payola. Some are getting a few extra perks like a bigger commitment of tuition or maybe some even get a room & board for college commitment thrown in. Most CHL players are not getting these things, however. The NCAA will have to change it's rules about contacting players to begin to even the field. Their restrictions give the CHL teams a big advantage. Also, they're going to have to make a better effort with early commitments (verbals) if they want to stear more stars their way. Keeping the kids is a whole different story, though. As long as the perception is that the CHL develops better players faster and has a better record of getting their players drafted higher by the NHL, kids who think they have a shot are going to leave before they even get started.

Anonymous said...

What I would like to know is how many hockey scholarships are given out per year in the NCAA? And how many players actually receive the "full ride" vs partial scholarship. You say there's 25 NCAA scholarships handed out to AJHL players. Is that annually or over 2 or more years? And how many players actually play in the AJHL? 200 or more? So 10% of players can realistically expect an NCAA scholarship while the rest get nothing? There's more to this debate than either side is willing to tell you. Both routes have their advantages, and both have their pitfalls.

Guy Flaming said...

"You say there's 25 NCAA scholarships handed out to AJHL players. Is that annually or over 2 or more years?

That would be commitments so far just for next season.

There are 16 teams in the AJHL, going by 25 players per team... you get 400 players.

How many of that 400 are eligible to move to a NCAA program next year? Not the 16 and 17 year olds and while I haven't totaled up the birthdays... can we agree on saying they would account for, say, 25% of the league?

That cuts it back to 300.

According to Chris Heisenberg's 2010 recruit list for the AJHL/NCAA ( http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rZN-GJH1Q0NQeXIJG47g-ug&gid=10 ) there are 52 players who are being pursued and about half of them have made their commitment.

So that's about 1 in 6 eligible players that are on NCAA radar.

Of course you're not going to get 100% of a league's players moving on to the next level - that never happens. So what is a reasonable percentage? Is a AJHL-to-NCAA-advancement of 10% be reasonable? If not, what would be a fair number to expect?

Keep in mind that this is a Canadian based junior league located in only one province as opposed to the USHL which is open to anyone who wants to play. That's not to say there aren't imports in the AJHL because their are, but not to anywhere near the same degree. (Picture the USHL only made up of 90% Minnesota born players).

It's a great discussion and it should continue so progress can be made!

Anonymous said...

The NCAA is so hypocritical. I am U.S. based fan and the college football bowl season will soon be upon us. Lets forget that the universities get millions for making these games.

What do the student-athletes get from earning their way to a top bowl? Free "giftbags" that include things like shoes, clothes, $300 Best Buy gift cards, Flat screen tv's, video game systems etc. Yes NCAA; your athletes are paid "under the table" too.

The NCAA is not supposed to allow any extra benefit that would not be availed to a non-athlete at that institution, but I never got a gift bag while I was in college when our football team went to a bowl game. Plus they never advertise the fact the scholarships they give out aren't guaranteed 4 year rides, they can rescind a scholarship anytime they feel like.

I'm tired of this "its all about the kids" garbage. College kids have to sit out a year if they want to transfer schools, yet their coaches are free to leave anytime for bigger money. Look in the mirror NCAA

dggoddard said...

I think the end game here is Kelly's attempting to to use the NHL to force CHL to "play fair." His background is not just as an attorney but he specializes in Labor Law.

If he can convince the NHL to threaten hold the payments to the CHL, they'll be more likely come to the bargaining table. Its an interesting strategy and it just might work.

If the CHL is breaking their own rules by paying players or "robbing" kids of a college education when they are just 14 years old, the NHL is going to be very uncomfortable with this in this PC age. Especially with so many NHL franchises based in the US.

Also by shining the spotlight on what the CHL is doing, the Canadian courts might get involved. These CHL teams are breaking many their own rules and if someone really looks into it, maybe some laws. If you are paying minors, might some child labor laws not come into play? Are these kids or teams paying Canadian or US taxes on income or gifts received? Are the kids "working" more than 40 hours a week? Is "hiring" US (ie-foreign) kids legal under Canada's labor laws? It opens a whole Pandora's box.

Anonymous said...


The CHL draft is just a draft, period. The kids aren't robbed of anything when they play in the CHL, including a college education; the CHL pays for one year of college per year of CHL service. The CHL isn't forcing anyone to do anything in fact. The draft is simply a draft; the parents and kid are free of their own will to decide whether or not to try out for a CHL team.

In fact, it is the NCAA that isn't playing fair, not the CHL. If the NCAA wants an even playing field then all they have to do is stop treating the CHL players as pros.

dggoddard said...

Paul Kelly said in the interview that CHL teams are "paying the players." Clearly that makes those players "professional."

At first Kelly seemed like an odd choice to wage this battle from the NCAA perspective, but after reading the article above, he certainly seems to be a perfect fit.

If payments are being made "under the table" as Kelly alleges, is not reasonable to question if taxes, labor laws and visa issues are also being skirted?

Shawn said...

Just a thought I know what some Jr A folks say to me about Hockey Canada's involvement here is that they restrict players in Jr A more than the major junior leagues have eto deal with. For example, the WHL can have a player from any western province while the BCHL can't have anyone from outside of BC until they're 18. Also no European players allowed in Jr A and a limit of 16 year olds.

Anonymous said...

Has Kelly ever considered that not everyone is cut out for college? I do think that Canada should try to create an elite-level Jr A. league, though. Otherwise guys like Sahir Gill and Jaden Schwartz will just keep heading south.